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Kenyan Anti-Corruption Chief Forced to Resign

Kenyan Anti-Corruption Chief Forced to Resign

Kenyan Anti-Corruption Chief Forced to Resign

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The embattled head of Kenya's anti-corruption agency has resigned amid a wave of public and political pressure. Aaron Ringera's status had been openly questioned during the past two weeks, after the nation's parliament rejected his re-appointment.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki re-appointed the controversial head of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission at the end of August, and the uproar over the president's move has dominated the local news headlines in Kenya for the last several weeks.

Both the anti-corruption body's advisory board and members of parliament immediately rejected the president's move, accusing the head of state of overstepping his powers and of violating their legal authority to approve the new commissioner.

Aaron Ringera put a climactic finish to the political standoff, finally stepping down from his position after defiantly declaring last week he was not going anywhere.

"The deputy director Fatuma Sichale and I have considered all the happenings and have come to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of Kenya, the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission as an institution and all its staff, as well as in the best interests of our individual selves and our families, to exit from the leadership of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission," he said.

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Ringera described the outcry caused by his re-appointment as a "national storm."

Two weeks ago parliament voted to veto the re-appointment after days of heated debate and behind-the-scenes political scrambling.

The president has refused to recognize the legitimacy of Parliament's vote, holding that the re-appointment fell under his broad executive powers and that only the nation's courts could decide otherwise.

Ringera's two deputies, who were re-appointed at the same time, have now both been forced to step down as well.

Ringera's critics say the anti-corruption agency has done very little under his watch despite the surfacing of a number of high-profile corruption scandals. Ringera has vocally defended his tenure, saying the commission's mandate does not include prosecutorial powers and that all he had the power to do was investigate and recommend cases for prosecution.

The watchdog group Transparency International's latest global report on corruption, released last week, ranks Kenya a poor 147 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index.

Many analysts argue that the steady siphoning off of public funds into private hands is not just a barrier to economic development, but also a deep threat to the nation's stability. They point to the nation's long-standing history of ethnically-edged political corruption as a core root cause of the post-election tribal violence that broke out in late 2007 and early 2008.

Illicitly-amassed funds are perceived to have enriched the elites of the ruling parties, creating deep-seated resentment in those regions that feel economically sidelined due to their political misfortunes. Kenyan politics revolves heavily around shifting coalitions of tribal communities.

Ringera is expected to be re-appointed to the nation's Court of Appeal, where he was a sitting judge before being recruited for the anti-corruption position.